How Long Does a Car Accident Stay on Your Insurance Record?

Insurance companies typically count any car accidents you’ve had in the past three to five years.

Woman making a call by crashed vehicle
Updated May 13, 2024
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If you’ve recently been in a car accident, you can generally expect your car insurance rates to increase. This is a common occurrence whether you caused the accident or not. However, you might not see as much of an increase if you didn’t cause the accident.

And if you’re wondering how long a car accident stays on your insurance record, it depends on where you live, but it’s common for insurance companies to consider accidents on your driving record for three to five years.

Let’s explore more about how accidents affect your auto insurance rates, whether you need to report every accident, and how to lower your premiums.

In this article

How does your insurance company know about car accidents?

Most insurance companies check your motor vehicle record (MVR) if you want to start or renew a policy. Your MVR, also referred to as your driving record, typically shows traffic violations, license suspensions, arrests, and more. Your driving record also displays information about any car accidents you’ve been involved in that have been reported to the police.

A variety of different parties can access MVRs, including law enforcement agencies and certain employers. Your insurance company and its agents can also access your driving record for underwriting purposes, which is the general process where an insurer decides your rates and whether to approve you for coverage.

What if I don’t report an accident?

There are instances where you might be involved in a minor accident and don’t feel the need to report it to the police. This is usually if the suspected damage is under a certain amount, such as less than $1,000 or $2,500.

If the accident is never reported to the police, it likely won’t appear on your driving record. But the guidelines about whether you’re legally required to report an accident depend on where you live, so be sure to check your state laws.

You also might report an accident to your insurance company without filing a police report. In this case, other insurance companies would likely be able to see that accident through a database known as LexisNexis C.L.U.E. Auto.

LexisNexis C.L.U.E. Auto is a database of auto insurance claims history that’s shared between 99% of insurers that provide automobile coverage. Many insurers will check your driving record and LexisNexis to get a more complete picture of your driving and claims history.

If you don’t report an accident to the police or to your insurance company, there would likely be no official record of the accident. You might do this in specific circumstances, such as if you cause property damage by bumping your garage door while driving your own vehicle. There’s no other party involved and no dispute about getting repairs done, and it’s something you can take care of yourself.

But again, keep in mind that the legality of reporting accidents depends on where you live and the circumstances of the accident. It’s often best to report most car accidents, especially if another party is involved.

How long do accidents stay on your driving record?

It depends on where you live, but the general length of time a car accident stays on your driving record is three to five years.

An accident could technically be on your record for more than five years, but insurers generally won’t consider those accidents when determining your rates and whether to offer you insurance coverage.

Here are a few examples of how long accidents stay on your record in different states:

State Years an accident stays on your record
Arizona Up to 3 years
California 3 years
Florida Up to 3 years or more
Georgia 2 years
Texas 3 years
Keep in mind

Your driving record also shows citations or traffic violations, which could be related to car accidents and also affect your car insurance rates.

Many states use a points system to account for traffic violations. Accumulate too many points and you might have to attend a driver’s safety course or even have your license suspended.

Will your insurance rates go up after a car accident?

Your car insurance rates will typically go up after a car accident, especially if you cause the accident and file a claim with your insurance company. This is often because accidents appear on your driving record and might indicate to insurers that you’re more likely to be in an accident than someone with a clean driving record.

It depends on the severity of the accident and your car insurance company, but you might see your rates go up 20% to 50% or more. That means if you were paying about $1,200 annually, you could end up paying around $1,440 to $1,800 or more each year after an accident.

Here are a few types of accidents and claims that could increase your car insurance rates:

  • At-fault accidents: Causing an accident practically guarantees your rates will go up.
  • No-fault accidents: Being involved in an accident will often raise your rates, but the premium increase might not be as much as being involved in an at-fault accident.
  • Different types of claims: In general, submitting a claim will increase your rates. This includes liability, collision, and comprehensive claims.

What if a car accident wasn’t your fault?

Your auto insurance premiums can still go up even if a car accident wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t make much sense because you’re not at fault, but your rates could go up anyway. However, the rate increase might not be as high as if you had caused an accident.

The laws regarding how claims are handled for at-fault and not-at-fault accidents depend on where you live. But either type of accident can increase your car insurance rates.

Do you have to report car accidents to insurance?

Most car insurance companies want you to report any accident you’re involved in. This doesn’t mean you have to file a claim for every accident, especially if it’s a minor accident with little to no damage or injuries.

But reporting accidents to your insurance provider maintains a record of something happening. So if someone were to try and sue you over an accident, you have a trail of the incident and a record of what happened.

You’re typically required to report any accident to your insurance company if something happened that could require your coverage to kick in. This could mean you had a slight fender bender with another vehicle or you ran into someone’s mailbox. Even if you don’t plan to file a claim, your insurance company wants to know about it.

Keep in mind that you don’t always have to report car accidents to local law enforcement, as it depends on where you live and the circumstances of each accident. Here are the laws about reporting car accidents to the police in Arizona, Florida, and Georgia:

  • Arizona: You must report all car accidents if they cause any injuries, death, or damage.
  • Florida: You must report a car accident if it involves any injuries, death, or at least $500 in estimated damages.
  • Georgia: You must report a car accident if it involves any injuries, death, or at least $500 in estimated damages.

What is accident forgiveness?

Accident forgiveness is a common auto insurance benefit that typically prevents your rates from going up after your first at-fault car accident. You might have to pay for this benefit or it could be included by your insurer for no additional cost.

The exact terms of accident forgiveness vary by insurance provider. Here’s how it works with a few major insurance companies:

Insurer Accident forgiveness benefit
Geico Your rates won’t go up after your first at-fault accident if you qualify for this benefit or add it to your coverage.
Liberty Mutual Your rates won’t go up if you’ve had 5 years of accident-free driving.
Progressive Your rates won’t go up on claims that cost less than $500. If you’ve been a customer for at least 5 years with no accidents or violations during that time, your first accident of any kind is forgiven.

How to lower your insurance rates after an accident

You can help lower your insurance rates after an accident by qualifying for discounts or checking for errors on your driving record.

Qualify for discounts

You already know a clean driving record can help lower your car insurance rates, but other non-driving-history discounts can also help. Here are a few examples of discounts that can help lower your rates:

  • Multi-policy: Have two or more policies with the same insurer. Also known as bundling.
  • Multi-car: Have two or more vehicles on your auto insurance policy.
  • Good student: Add a full-time student to your policy who has good grades, usually a “B” average or higher.
  • Military: Be an active-duty military member or have a qualifying military affiliation.
  • Homeowner: Own a home, even if it’s not insured with your car insurance company.

Check your driving record

Your motor vehicle record has a list of accidents, citations, arrest, and other possible items that can affect your car insurance rates. It’s worth checking your MVR to see if there are any errors, which could negatively affect how much you pay for car insurance.

For example, you might have a citation on your MVR that you were cleared of and shouldn’t be there. Getting this or another error fixed typically involves contacting your local DMV office or your insurance company.

FAQs

How long do car accidents stay on your record in Georgia?

Car accidents typically affect your insurance for three to five years, but points from driving violations stay on your record for two years in Georgia. Driving violations could include aggressive driving or speeding. If you accumulate 15 points or more in a 24-month period, your license is suspended. Points drop off after two years.

How long do car accidents stay on your record in Florida?

In general, car accidents affect your insurance rates for three to five years. If you’ve been convicted of a driving violation in Florida, points are typically added to your license and remain on your driving record for at least five years. Accumulated points over a certain period of time can result in a suspended license.

How long do car accidents stay on your record in Arizona?

Car accidents generally affect your car insurance premiums for around three to five years, but any convictions for traffic violations in Arizona could be on your driving record permanently. And your license could be suspended or you might have to attend a driving course if you receive too many points from traffic violations over a certain period of time.

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Bottom line

So how long does a car accident stay on your insurance record? The general rule of thumb is three to five years for many insurance providers. That’s a bit of a range, so it might be worth checking with your insurance company to see the exact timing for you.

This could help you know when you might have an opportunity to save money on your rates because an accident is no longer being considered.

For more potential ways to save, check out our page on the best car insurance to see what policies are available in your area.

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Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®

Ben Walker, CEPF, CFEI®, is credit cards specialist. For over a decade, he's leveraged credit card points and miles to travel the world. His expertise extends to other areas of personal finance — including loans, insurance, investing, and real estate — and you can find his insights on The Washington Post, Debt.com, Yahoo! Finance, and Fox Business.